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San Francisco Shows: The Best Way to Plan and Book

Shows, shows, and even more shows! I know I’ve mentioned several times that I prefer to be in wide open spaces far out in remote areas, and while it’s very true, I also absolutely love going into the city to attend shows too! Just another of the many ways that I seem to be a bit of a walking contradiction.

What I’ve found, is that it’s quite difficult to figure out what plays are running with all the theaters that are in the city, and all the best places to book them. It would be fabulous if there were one reliable website to see all the shows and to book all tickets, but I have yet to find the perfect site. I did find a website that was close called San Francisco Theater, and you can click on this link to find it. I struggled with Hamilton, because of it’s popularity, it had completely sold out in minutes, but you can read my post about “How to Get the Impossible-To-Get Hamilton Show Tickets” here.

As much as I like taking advantage of being in the city and getting to see shows when I can, one rule I really try to stick to, is no more than three shows (and one concert) in one week. This is just because I end up absolutely worn out with days and nights that are packed too full. It’s no good to pay for a show and then find yourself nodding off because you’ve overdone it…so remember to pace yourself and allow for down time too.

In this post, I will list several theaters and the San Francisco Symphony, with links to check their schedules and to book tickets. Remember, if you are planning well enough ahead of time, and you want to see a specific show(s), your best bet is going directly to the theater or company website to purchase tickets. Yes, you can wait until you are there and go to a ticket-stand at the crack of dawn one morning to attempt getting a “deal”, and you may very well get one, but you also run the risk of it not being able to see the show you really want to see or having to go on a day that you didn’t plan. The ticket booth that I was told by several to use is called TIX Bay Area and is located at 350 Powell Street, (but they couldn’t help me get Hamilton tickets). I ended up using StubHub to get my Hamilton tickets, and was very pleased with their service.

*Another little tip to make things much easier logistically, is to always choose a digital or electronic ticket option if there is one. This eliminates having to keep track of and remember paper tickets and keeps you from wasting what I like to call my “before show wine time” standing in a will call line. 🙂 

The Orpheum Theater:

Located at 1192 Market at Hyde Street, this theater is unbelievably beautiful inside and is worth going just to see it, and since they currently don’t offer tours, your only option is to see a show. The theater usually runs Broadway touring shows, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see Wicked and Hamilton here. When you go, make sure that you arrive at least an hour early. You will want plenty of time to purchase T-Shirts, or other show goodies, hit the bar to buy your special plastic wine filled sippy cup (which you can actually take in with you and then get cheaper refills), and take plenty of pictures before the show begins.

*A little extra tip: If you can get Mezzanine tickets, you’ll not only have a great view, but also a large uncrowded bar and easy access to less crowded bathrooms upstairs.  

You can click on this link to see what shows are running at the Orpheum Theatre, and to purchase tickets.

The San Francisco Playhouse:

The San Francisco Playhouse is actually inside the Kensington Park Hotel at 450 Post Street and also, conveniently located next to the Inn at Union Square, which I highly recommend.  This theater is such a wickedly cool use of space, just wait until you see how they’ve accomplished this. The old hotel has such an authentic feel to it and the lobby offers more photo ops than you’ll likely have time for. There is a bar offering beer, wine, sodas, and snacks that you can take into the theater with you. Several people bought full sized bottles of wine in and sipped throughout the play. One woman, and this is the god’s honest truth, brought a small dog in her purse and a bottle of champagne. She then sat in the front row and proceeded to fill and refill her champagne flute while the little dog sat on her lap quietly and intently watching the play. I’m assuming, by his perfect play etiquette, that it wasn’t his first show. It was absolute perfection. I saw The Christians by Lucas Hnath, (Read the New York Times review here.) which was powerful and thought provoking, but sadly closed on March 11th.

You can click on this link to see what shows are running at The San Francisco Playhouse, and to purchase tickets.

Golden Gate Theater:

This theater first opened in 1922 as a vaudeville house and is owned by SHN, the same theater company who owns the Orpheum. The Golden Gate Theater is located at 1 Taylor Street, and usually shows Broadway and Pre-Broadway shows. I have to admit, that I had planned to see Into The Woods at this theater, but I was exhausted and skipped it to have a free night instead.

You can click on this link to see what shows are running at the Golden Gate Theater, and to purchase tickets.

Curran Theatre:

Opened in 1922 and given the name after it’s first owner, Howard Curran, this theatre is located at 445 Geary Street. The Curran has the honor of hosting more pre-Broadway shows than any other theatre in San Francisco, which consists of a lineup that will just knock your socks off. From Biloxi Blues, Brighton Beach Memoirs, and Fences to Wicked…this theater apparently has all the good mojo a production needs to go to Broadway! Eclipsed, (Read New York Times review here.) by Dania Gurira is currently showing there and absolutely blowing people away with it’s powerful all female cast. Another show I really regret missing in order to make my schedule more manageable. GAHHH!

You can click on this link to see the show schedule and to purchase tickets for Curran Theatre.

Castro Theatre:

This one I’m including for one reason only, Sing Alongs! This theater, which shows only movies, always has a great line up of documentaries, independent films, or anything with a powerful underlying message, but also, an incredible selection of sing along movies. Grease, Moana, Sound of Music, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Momma Mia to The Wall and many more…they are all shown here, and….oh, what fun! You can check their calendar here.

You can click here to purchase tickets for the Castro Theatre.

Alcazar Theatre:

This small theatre, which seats just over 500 and has no direct website, is located at 650 Geary Street. Here you can see a variety of Broadway, Off Broadway, variety shows, cabaret, and touring comedians.

You can click on this link to see what shows are at Alcazar Theatre, and to purchase tickets.

Geary Theatre:

This is another historic venue which is housed inside the American Conservatory Theater at 415 Geary Street. Here you will find classical and contemporary productions, and if interested, you can also attend acting school.

You can click on this link to see what shows are running at Geary Theatre, and to purchase tickets, or to apply for their acting school.

San Francisco Symphony (Davies Symphony Hall):  

Attending the symphony is always something that rejuvenates my soul. There is something about beautiful music that just calms my spirit and smooths my rough edges and this is such a beautiful hall to experience a concert in. One thing to be aware of is that there are set symphony performance dates, and featured guest musicians as well, sometimes they even combine the two and you can have both! So just be aware of what type of program you are booking. If you detest solo violin (as I do for some reason), it would sure be a shame to end up at a solo violin concert.

I was fortunate enough to see Sir Andras Schiff Plays Schubert in Recital. This was without a doubt the greatest pianist I have ever had the pleasure of seeing and hearing in person. His style was effortless as his fingertips danced ever so lightly across the piano keys, and the sound he produced was heavenly. When I closed my eyes I found it hard to believe that it was just one person playing one piano. This was such an experience, that I will likely never forget, yet, I realized while sitting in the audience that I was suffering from vacation exhaustion. I had been walking miles each day and attending shows almost each night, and while listening to the beautiful music I wanted nothing more than to lay my head down and sleep. I needed to take a break from all the fun.

You can click the link here to see the schedule and book tickets for the San Francisco Symphony.

The good thing about San Francisco, is that most of the theaters are in the same general area and there are many hotels and good restaurants near, which makes it an easy adventure. Union Square is the best central location to stay, and I highly recommend the Inn at Union Square, if you can get in. From here, most theaters are walkable, but who wants to walk for blocks when dressed for the theater? So, I recommend using Lyft (No Uber!), to get where you need to go. If you are staying in Union Square, you shouldn’t pay more than $10 to get to or from any theaters. 

*The businesses listed in this post are not paying me, or compensating me in any manner for this endorsement. I am simply sharing my own experience and knowledge in the hopes that others can use it to plan a great trip to see San Francisco shows as well.


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